Friday 21 October 2016

Eoin Liston: Dublin errors down to overconfidence and poor discipline

Published 31/08/2015 | 02:30

'Diarmuid Connolly did see red and, if his suspension is made to stick, he will be amassive loss for Dublin in next Saturday’s replay'
'Diarmuid Connolly did see red and, if his suspension is made to stick, he will be amassive loss for Dublin in next Saturday’s replay'

When Dublin were good yesterday, they were excellent. They controlled the game and having been six points up in the first half and seven up after the break, they had this game won twice.

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But when Mayo threw off the shackles and returned to what they're good at - running the ball hard at their opponents - the Dubs fell apart.

They looked like a team with no mental toughness. Outside of the two Brogans in the last ten minutes they had no leaders.

Michael Darragh Macauley was gone by this stage following his black card, and we'll come to that later, Diarmuid Connolly was marked absent along with the likes of Paul Flynn and Stephen Cluxton.

These are the players that you expect to see leading their team when the going got tough.

Jim Gavin didn't get the best out of his team yesterday and he will have questions to answer. Their was an air of overconfidence about them and that's always a dangerous thing.

He got caught out in last year's All-Ireland semi-final against Donegal and I wrote it off at the time because anyone can get caught once. As the old saying goes: fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

Going back to Macauley's black card, Dublin's discipline throughout this game was very poor; more than one player spat the doodee out of the pram.

They might say that referee Joe McQuillan was against them, but he wasn't. Their discipline was poor and they conceded far too many frees. Cillian O'Connor punished them, with eight points from frees and a converted penalty in his 1-9 haul.

They were petulant, they were niggly and they wasted their energy giving out to McQuillan, which resulted in a number of frees being brought forward and made O'Connor's task easier.

Philip McMahon was lucky that the motion of his head towards Aidan O'Shea wasn't interpreted as aggressive or he would have been sent off.

Of course, Connolly did see red and, if his suspension is made to stick, he will be a massive loss for Dublin in next Saturday's replay. I'm not sure who started the row between himself and Lee Keegan, but he could clearly be seen hitting the Mayo man so it will be tough for him to argue his case in Croke Park.

Mayo got decent starts to both halves, but then Dublin took over. The Dubs were particularly impressive after the break and once Kevin McManamon got his goal they looked set for an easy win.

Mayo had been trying to hit Aidan O'Shea with high, diagonal ball, but the passes they sent his way were of poor quality and left him with very little to work with. Dublin coped well with him, often with double- and treble-marking, even with Rory O'Carroll gone off injured.

Once they realised the game was almost gone they finally threw the shackles off and reverted to what has brought them so much success over the past five years - direct, hard running down the middle.

And when they did this, Dublin had no answers.

In the first half I thought Mayo's tactic of allowing Cluxton to hit his kick-outs to the corner-back was quite clever. It meant they weren't allowing Dublin gain much yardage and the ball was in the hands of someone who isn't as good a distributor as their goalkeeper.

In the final quarter they went full-court press and Cluxton's kick-outs, normally one of Dublin's greatest strengths, started to go awry.

You have to admire the way Mayo dragged themselves back into this. They hit some dreadful second-half wides which sucked the life out of their challenge and at seven down most other teams would have folded.

They showed courage, character and resilience and they proved yet again what an honest bunch of players they are.

At this point, it's still hard to tip Mayo because of the difference in quality between the two sets of forwards. Dublin have six scoring forwards to start plus two or three on the bench. Bernard and Alan Brogan led the way, Ciarán Kilkenny had a great first half and once again Kevin McManamon got a vital goal after coming on as a substitute.

I'd expect both teams to improve the next day because this was their first real test.

As a Kerryman, I had Dublin down as world-beaters, but on the evidence of this I would have to review that assessment. As a Kerryman, I wasn't quaking in my boots and we'd give ourselves a great chance in the final against whoever wins.

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